Twitter’s engineers alter language to make it less racially loaded

Long overdue replacement words incoming

CNET has reported that Twitter is moving full steam ahead towards using language in their development that that is much more inclusive.

Traditional terms used in programming and development, such as master, slave, whitelist, and blacklist are set to be replaced as part of a concerted effort to change the use of words with racist connotations.

The words listed are so common within the field it’s super-easy to read them as a white person without giving them a second thought, but when you stop and think for a second you realize there are countless other, better ways to describe the function and they need to be consigned to history.

Back in January Twitter engineers Regynald Ausgustin and Kevin Oliver started a campaign to spearhead a change to replace the words and now the pair’s efforts have been formalized by the company, at the same time expanding it to other discriminatory terms such as “man hours” and “sanity check”.

Similar changes have already been carried out, or are underway at Github and Apple.

Developers of Python dropped master/slave terminology in 2018. In 2014 Drupal changed the terms also.

CNET reports as far back as 2003 LA County asked suppliers and contractors to stop using master and slave on computer equipment, so this is not a new thing lead by the recent BLM protests.

Nobody thinks for one minute that changes such as these will fix racial injustice but they are changes that should be made and clearly LA County thoughts so nearly two decades ago.

There are many who think Twitter is filled with so much hate-filled racial aggression that there might be better ways to spend time and effort, but let’s commend them for working to solve both issues.

Twitter aim to have finished the project by the end of 2021 (you’d think a quick Find & Replace might sort it, but maybe it’s more complicated than that?).

Some of the recommendations for world changes can be found below:

  • Whitelist becomes allowlist.
  • Blacklist becomes denylist.
  • Master/slave becomes leader/follower, primary/replica or primary/standby.
  • Grandfathered becomes legacy status.
  • Gendered pronouns (for example “guys”) become folks, people, you all, y’all.
  • Gendered pronouns (for example “he” or “his”) become they or their.
  • Man hours becomes person hours or engineer hours.
  • Sanity check becomes quick check, confidence check or coherence check.
  • Dummy value becomes placeholder value or sample value.

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Been around consoles and computers since his parents bought him a Mattel Intellivision. Spent over a decade as editor of popular print-based video games and computer magazines, including a market-leading PlayStation title. Has written tech content for GamePro, Official Australian Playstation Magazine, PlayStation Pro, Amiga Action, Mega Action, ST Action, GQ, Loaded, and the Daily Mirror. Twitter: @iampaulmcnally

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